By Ian Lovett and Francis X. Rocca
(The Wall Street Journal) BALTIMORE—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops chose a conservative archbishop for a key post Tuesday, signaling resistance to Pope Francis’s vision for the church among the Catholic hierarchy in the U.S.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann, of Kansas City, was elected chairman of the committee on Pro-Life Activities. In a vote of 96 to 82, he defeated Cardinal Blase Cupich, of Chicago, who is seen as a liberal in the church and a close ally of the pope.
The vote breaks a longstanding tradition of the position being held by a cardinal—an unusual lapse of deference in a highly rank-conscious body—and suggests that Catholic leaders in the U.S. remain largely resistant to the changes Pope Francis is trying to bring to the church.
Some experts said that the slim margin of the vote shows growing support for Pope Francis’s agenda; others said it mostly reflected the tradition of a cardinal holding the post.
Like all the bishops, Archbishop Naumann and Cardinal Cupich are both strong opponents of abortion and euthanasia. Archbishop Naumann said that he would keep the committee focused on those two issues, as it has been in recent years.
Cardinal Cupich, meanwhile, indicated that he would have broadened the committee’s focus to include other issues like the death penalty, health care and poverty—a list more in line with the priorities Pope Francis advocated for.
“It is clear since 2013 that a majority of them sees the message of Francis’ pontificate, esp. on life and marriage, as not adequate for the Catholic Church in the USA,” Massimo Faggioli, a theologian at Villanova, said on Twitter after the vote Tuesday.
Stephen Schneck, a former director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, said the vote indicated the continued resistance to Pope Francis among the U.S. bishops... (continued)